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Digital Learning: 10 Trends and Technologies to Know

Photo by Sonja Langford on Unsplash

The use of technology in learning has changed the way leaders learn

I love fall in the Midwest. I love the brisk mornings, changing leaves, fall festivals, bonfires, and picking crisp apples at the orchard. But there is one thing I do not love about fall: the disruption of changing the clock for daylight saving time. Even though I generally like daylight saving, I find it hard to set my clock “back” an hour in the fall because it signals that it will get darker one hour sooner than I am used to in the evening.

As I was reading the Bersin by Deloitte article, “The Disruption of Digital Learning: 10 Things We Have Learned,” I was reminded of how important (but sometimes inconvenient) disruption can be. Just when we think we have learning and development (or our sleep schedule) figured out, or a specific program is working well, a new trend or idea or technology comes along to disrupt it.

While disruption can be unsettling (literally), we should use it as an opportunity to stop and observe what’s changing around us and assess whether our learning and development initiatives are positioned to adapt to the changes.

Digital learning is one disruption that is significantly changing the way employees and leaders can and want to learn. It is defined by Bersin as “bringing learning to where employees are.” The article notes it is not a type of learning, but rather a way of learning.

While technology has been impacting learning for decades, the rapid rise of mobile learning and real-time tools like YouTube and Google are creating an appetite for new ways of learning that have big implications for how we design programs and tools.

Here is a summary of the 10 top trends in digital learning that Bersin has observed:

  1. Traditional Learning Management System (LMS): Companies can spend millions on these systems and employees often report they have limited value and rarely use them. Learners want to quickly find content that’s relevant and tailored to their needs, not search through hundreds of pre-loaded courses. Bersin notes the LMS is getting replaced by new software called the “Learning Record Store” (LRS) that’s primarily used for record-keeping and learning compliance management.
  2. xAPI: Just as your browser can track clicks on a PC, an xAPI (a.k.a. “experience API”) can enable products, such as an LRS, to track all digital activities at work. Think about this: what if you could easily track and see everything you read and consume digitally?
  3. Micro and Macrolearning: Content is now falling into these two categories. Microlearning answers the plea: “I need help now,” and includes things someone can quickly view or read in under 10 minutes. Macrolearning helps with “I want to learn something new” and requires more time and deeper content. You’ll need to understand and use both content formats to help employees learn just-in-time and over time.
  4. Continuous Learning: Knowledge workers are spending so much time looking for information that most are taking fewer than 25 minutes in a week to slow down and actually learn. Employees are distracted, overwhelmed, and impatient, so they’re looking for on-demand ways of learning that are easily accessible. With the rapid pace of change, everyone needs to learn continuously to keep up, let alone to get ahead.
  5. Spaced Learning: Research has shown that people do not learn best through “binge education,” but rather by spacing out exposure to new ideas and skills over time. To retain learning, employees need repetition, spacing, and questioning.
  6. New Learning Architecture: As the use of the traditional LMS is changing, the learning tech market is expanding and now includes new categories of technology, such as the Learning Record Store, content libraries, microlearning platforms, learning experience platforms, and development tools like virtual reality and simulations. As you evaluate the systems you have in place or consider new ones, Bersin encourages you to look for systems that put the learner at the center.
  7. The Culture of Learning: Culture is more important than ever and employees need to feel that the organizational culture supports learning. This includes giving employees time to learn and reflect, allowing for experimentation with new ideas, and helping employees know that new skills are valued.
  8. Business Model for Learning: As the learning landscape changes, consider shifting more of your L&D investment toward “pay for use” models. Since the learning tech market is rapidly changing, you may not want to spend too much on any one vendor.
  9. Team-Based Messaging: Internal messaging platforms, such as Google Hangouts, Slack, and Workplace by Facebook, are changing the way people collaborate and share resources with one another. Consider how you can work with your IT department to leverage messaging tools to build online learning environments.
  10. L&D Skills and Capabilities: Bersin highlights this as the one of the most important issues. Learning and Development and HR professionals must think beyond just being “trainers” or “instructional designers” and upskill to focus more on design thinking, experience design, and data-driven solutions.


In summary, digital learning is a disruption that cannot and should not be ignored. Is all your content being delivered in the classroom? Do you have an underutilized LMS? Do you consistently hear from your leaders that they just don’t have time for development? These could be signs that you need to incorporate and promote more digital learning.

Unsure of where to begin? We’d be happy to talk with you about how you can evolve your development programs and resources to support ongoing, digital learning.

And if you live in an area with daylight saving time, don’t forget to set your clocks back when the time comes this fall. It may be a disruption, but it will position you well for the season ahead!

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Megan Davis

Megan Davis is a past FlashPoint employee with a passion for organizational psychology and development.